Monday, 8 April 2013

The Hills are Alive with The Old Button Costumes

Costumes for Oliver the Musical
Oliver, Oliver, never before has a boy wanted more

For the last three years Louise Ryan Vocal School has been putting on stage musicals in Cardiff, giving children and young people the opportunity to audition for, and perform in, a professional style show during the February half term. Rehearsals start in the previous September, and so does the costume design!

The first musical, back in 2011, was Oliver and I only did a few costumes - for my son who was playing Oliver. Those were the days.

In 2012, LRVS put on Suessical the Musical and I volunteered to help out with the costumes. I was quickly informed I was now Wardrobe Mistress and told to go away and create over 60 costumes for the whole cast. If you fancy finding out more, I wrote a number of blogs last year on Making the Costumes for Seussical the Musical - you can find all five of them here. Whew!

Costumes for Seussical the Musical
Oh, the thinks you can think!
A number of these Seussical costumes have just been sent over the pond to America after a mum from a drama group in Alabama spotted my blog and asked if she could buy some for their production. Great to think another group of youngsters will get to use them - I hope she sends me photos. 

Austrian dress for The Sound of Music
Brown paper packages tied up with strings!
I've been designing and making stage costumes for a number of years, since my daughter started dance lessons with Performing Arts Cymru in Bridgend.

One of the earliest I made was an Austrian style dress for my daughter about five or six years ago. She did a song and dance routine "These are a Few of My Favourite Things" from The Sound of Music.  And yes, the dress was made from an actual old curtain.

Ok, so the design wasn't exactly authentic - instead of a gathered dirndl it had a full circle skirt suitable for a lyrical ballet dance, and I needed to redo the white bodice in stretchy lycra to allow her to breathe while singing and dancing at the same time! I've found a few books on costume design for plays and film where authenticity is important, even down to the undergarments. But I've discovered that great musical theatre costumes need to create a sense of the character while allowing ease of movement and breathing room.

Louise Ryan vocal coach celebrating 25 years teaching

2013 is a very special year for Louise Ryan as she has been teaching for 25 years! She has helped hundreds and hundreds of students, a number of whom have gone on to very sucessful singing and stage careers.

So the LRVS show this year was extra special -  showcasing extracts from not one, but three, musicals! The Sound of Music, Les Miserables and We Will Rock You - three very different productions that demonstrate the wide range of vocal and acting skills LRVS nurtures and develops. These showcases also supported the BTEC Performing Arts examinations the school now offers pupils, providing lots of opportunities for leading ladies and men, as well as supporting and ensemble roles and some huge choral numbers. 

And of course, I was there as Wardrobe Mistress again. And a 3-in-1 show meant lots of costumes. And I mean lots - there were over 200 different outfits in total. A completely different challenge to Suessical - instead of designing individual bespoke costumes based on my interpretation of each different character, this year's show needed me to design, source and create lots of period style costumes to characterise large groups as well as creating some very distinctive looks that would clearly identify the lead characters to the audience. And as well as being cheap and quick to make, they needed to allow for some very rapid costume changes, as the vast majority of the 60+ cast were in all three musical extracts on the same night!

So it was back to the discount fabric shops and scouring eBay for suitable fabrics and vintage clothes. My house soon resembled those Austrian hills, with mountains of material (including curtains!) and half-transformed garments in every room.

I'll share some pictures and costume stories from each of the different musicals over the next few months.

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